Johan Tobias Sergel


The Swedish draftsman and sculptor Johan Tobias Sergel trained with Pierre-Hubert L’Archevêque, a French artist active at the royal court in Stockholm. Later, Sergel spent several months studying at the Royal Academy in Paris. This early drawing reveals his resultant debt to French art, especially the light and sinuous graphic style of François Boucher (whose work appears elsewhere in the exhibition). The ambitious, highly theatrical composition illustrates a scene from Homer’s epic poem The Iliad. Seated at right, Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek army laying siege to Troy, agrees to return the abducted daughter of the Trojan priest Chryses, demanding in exchange Achilles’s favorite concubine. Furious at the idea, Achilles, seen at left, draws his sword but is held back by the apparition of the goddess Athena.

Johan Tobias Sergel
Swedish, 1740–1814
Achilles restrained by Athena in Agamemnon’s tent, from “The Iliad,” Book I, 1765–66
Black chalk
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray; 2019.887
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by Art Institute of Chicago Imaging Department